How to Remove Lumps of Paint on Your Car

Nothing good can come from driving too close behind a dump truck or other vehicle carrying an exposed load. Maybe, if you’re lucky, you might get away with some dirt strewn across your hood. If you’re not so lucky, your car may get hit by a rock as it skips along the highway. Once you get out of the car, it won’t take long to realize that the rock left a present for you: some chipped paint. No worries, you say. You’ll grab some touch up paint, and everything will be ok.

That is, of course, until you realize that applying touch up paint isn’t as easy as it looks. More often than not car owners use the brush that comes with the paint, and they end up with an ugly looking glob.

Here are four suggestions to remove dried paint:

Method 1 of 4: Try using low-tech materials

Material Needed

Try using low-tech materials first because they’re often the most appropriate tool to use, may work just as well as something you buy at the auto parts store, and can save you money. Follow the steps below to remove touch up paint using low-tech materials.

Step 1: Using your fingernail. By far the easiest, and least expensive, paint removal strategy is to use your fingernail to see if you can break off the excess paint.

Scratch the dried paint to see if you can remove some or even most of it. Make sure not to scrape too hard so you don’t damage the paint job underneath.

Step 2: Using a toothpick. If the paint was recently applied, it might be possible to remove the glob with a toothpick.

Spray the paint glob with prep solvent to help loosen it.

Carefully pick at any globs of touch up paint with the toothpick, lifting up the end of the paint glob. Keep working the toothpick under the glob, spraying some of the solvent underneath if you need to loosen it further.

repainting the area with toothpick

Step 3: Repaint the area. If you’re successful in chipping off the paint glob, you may have to repaint the area.

This time, use a toothpick instead of a brush to apply the new coat of paint.

Getting the chipped area to look like the rest of the car might require more than one application of paint. Be patient and let it dry thoroughly before applying the next coat.

Method 2 of 4: Paint thinner

Materials Needed

  • Microfiber towels
  • Mild soap or detergent
  • Paint thinner
  • Q-tips

If your fingernail or toothpick strategies were ineffective, try paint thinner. Paint thinner can damage the paint on your car, so use cotton swabs, or Q-tips, to limit its contact with the surrounding paint.

Step 1: Clean the area of dirt and debris. Wash the area around the paint glob thoroughly using mild soap mixed with water.

Rinse and dry the area thoroughly with a microfiber towel

person rubbing q tip over paint glob

Step 2: Apply paint thinner. Apply a very small amount of paint thinner using a Q-tip.

Carefully rub the Q-tip over (just) the paint glob.

The paint glob should come off easily.

Step 3: Touch up. If you need to do a little touching up, use a toothpick to apply the new coat of paint.

Let the touched up area dry completely before applying another coat.

Method 3 of 4: Lacquer thinner

Materials Needed

  • Lacquer thinner
  • Microfiber towels
  • Mild soap or detergent
  • Q-tips

If you don’t have paint thinner, or if paint thinner didn’t work, try lacquer thinner. A lacquer thinner, unlike single solvent paint thinner or mineral spirits, is a combination of solvents designed to give it particular characteristics.

Step 1: Clean the area. Wash the area around the paint glob thoroughly using water mixed with mild detergent.

Rinse the area and dry it using a microfiber towel.

Step 2: Apply lacquer thinner. Using a Q-tip, gently apply some lacquer thinner over the paint glob.

The basecoat of the car’s paint should not be affected.

  • Warning: Keep the lacquer thinner away from plastic trim.

Step 3: Touch up area. If you need to do a little touching up, use a toothpick to apply the new coat of paint.

Allow the touch up paint to dry before applying another coat.

Method 4 of 4: Sanding off the glob

Materials Needed

  • Masking tape
  • Microfiber towel
  • Mild soap or detergent
  • Sanding block
  • Sandpaper (300 and 1200 grit)

If you are DIYer and feel comfortable with a sander, try sanding the paint glob until it’s smooth. With a little care, making sure to tape the area off, you can remove that pesky paint glob in no time.

Step 1: Clean the area. Using mild soap mixed with water, wash the area of the paint glob to remove any dirt or other debris.

Once finished cleaning, rinse and dry using a clean microfiber towel.

masking tape around glob of car paint

Step 2: Tape the area off. Mask off the areas immediately surrounding section where you’ll be sanding.

person sanding down the spot

Step 3: Sand the high points. Sand the high points of the paint glob using wet and dry 300-grit sandpaper.

For best results, you should use a sanding block. Dura-Block is a popular brand.

Step 4: Finish sanding. Once the surface is dry, smooth the finish using wet and dry 1200-grit sandpaper.

  • Warning: Go easy with the sander, trying not to remove any of the underlying paint. Also, be careful of the car’s overall paint level.

  • Tip: If you discover that you’ve taken off too much paint, do not to worry. Get a toothpick and fill in the gap. Again, it might take a few applications to fill the hole, so be patient and allow each coat to dry thoroughly before applying another.

With patience, and a little know-how, you can remove an unsightly touch up paint job. If you do not feel confident in doing the job yourself, seek the help of a professional auto body specialist. You can also Ask a Mechanic to find out what your options are and the best way to address your touch up paint problem.


The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

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